Friday, April 11, 2008

Santana at Borgata Review

Santana at Borgata - Review.

I went to Woodstock to see Santana. Not Bob Dylan, the Band, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young or anybody else but Santana, and then, after actually being there, I don't remember Santana at all. Ah, the Sixties.

The Santana Quest began in a Wildwood motel room sometime in mid-August, 1969, the summer after I had graduated from high school and went looking for two of my buddies. I found them holed up in a first floor motel room they had rented for the summer, with twin beds, tv, bathroom and shower and clean sheets and towls daily.

They were glad to see me, but couldn't explain why they chose to live in such squalor rather than stay at my family's rooming house in Ocean City for free and do the same thing, like they before.

I forget whether it was Gerry or Mark who asked me to, "Just listen," while he put on a 33 1/3 Long Playing (LP) vynal record, handing me the album cover, "Santana."

The previous recordings they thought worthy of calling my attention to were limited to Blood, Sweat and Tears and Janis Choplin, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and sat back and listened for the next half hour or so.

Okay, I thought, another counter-culture guitar genius, God bless him, but then they explained that Santana would be at Woodstock, a rock festival in upstate New York a few weeks hence and they were going.

Also on the bill were other cultural icons, or soon to be, but it was Santana who sparked our interest in going to Woodstock in the first place.

But once we got there, and got home safely, and as I look back on Woodstock decades later, I have no recollection of Santana actually playing at Woodstock, and that began to bother me. Especailly so when Jeff called and asked if I wanted to go see Santanta at Bogata in Atlantic City on Friday night.

"I don't know," I told Jeff, it's kind of sudden. What happened, your date back out at the last minute and now you don't want to waste a ticket?

No, I just had an extra ticket, do you want it or not?

Okay, okay, I say, and agree to meet him at the Gypsy Bar at the Borgatta Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City at 6:30, a half hour before showetime.

Normally I would take the back roads to the Garden State Parkway at New Gretna, but this time I veered off past the biker's pit stop at Green Bank Inn to Egg Harbor City, where I cought the White Horse Pike east right into Atlantic City and the Marina district that includes the Borgatta.

Just like the TV commercials, I felt like I was riding my Italian moped with girlfriend on the back into the Borgatta garage, which was miraculously easy for prime time on a Friday night.

Showtime was 7 pm, which was kind of hard to believe since most concerts begin around 10 and are timed to end around midnight, but this one, for sure, was for a 7 pm show with no opening act.

As planned, I arrived at the Gypsy Bar around 6pm and grabbed a ($7) draft of Youngling beer, and talked with the band setting up, Steamroller Picnic, which I remembered from many summers at Sea Isle City and Wildwood.

Since nobody I knew was around I went onto the casino floor and found a $5 minimum roulette table and put down $10 on the first third 1-12, which if it hit, would have paid off 2-1 or $30, which I would have let ride, and if it hit again, I would have spread it around the first third field a bit, and see what happens. I lost right away and went for a walk around the joint, which is a classy place and had a variety of restaurants (two steak houses).

Right across from the Gypsy Bar is the Oyster Bar, open 24-7 and has a nice sidewalk cafe and thus a great place to meet someone if you're a spy or need a place for an all night rondezevous.

The Gypsy Bar is quiet, but full early on, with a few old hippies that you know are there to see Santana.

Steamroller Picnic guys are still setting up their stuff, but the bar is full and people are mingling around in loose groups. Eventually my friend Mike shows up. Mike's the man with the tickets, so we're good to go anytime now, but will wait for the rest of the gang - Greg shows up first, then eventually Jeff, and after a few brews and cover tunes by Steamroller Picnic, we head up stairs to the main event, except for Jeff, who stays back to meet somebody with the last ticket.

The Borgatta is a classy joint, is laid out nice and they treat you right. The main showroom is big, though not as big as the Taj, and unlike the Taj horseshoe bleachers, the seats are set back straight from the stage. Our seats were in the middle, first teer up, so the people on the floor could all stand up and we could still see over them sitting down.

Without an opening act, Santana went on at precisely 7 pm and by the time the whole room was seated about a half hour later, he had verybody's attention.

Three songs into the show he stops the music and gives a short, three to five minute sermon, during which he praises other prophits, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, ......

One time when Santana was giving his sermon in Atlantic City, I have it from a reliable source on the scene, that somebody in the audience threw a beer bottle wrapped in a t-shirt at him and hit him square in the face, sparking a curse spewed chawing that showed how quick he can go from good to bad.

This time he called down the Holy Ghost upon us, but He didn't show up until near the end of the show.

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